Found this at realclearpolitics.com.
Tracinski, though he thinks electoral politics can still save us (I for one do not), is right on target in the rest of his observations.
September 20, 2009
It's the Liberty, Stupid
By Robert Tracinski
Well, it's official. The Obama phenomenon is over. Permanently.
It's not just that Obama's favorite weapon, the Big Speech, no longer moves public opinion. (Last Wednesday's health-care speech produced a slight "bounce" in public support for the health-care bill, but it disappeared in less than a week.)
What really ends the era of Obama is this: a major part of Obama's appeal was his symbolism as the first black president, which was supposed to give Americans an opportunity to put the whole ugly history of racial politics behind them. Yet here we are, less than eight months into Obama's administration, and the racial politics are worse than they have been in a long time.
Within days of Saturday's giant "tea party" rally in Washington, Obama's supporters in the press began denouncing the protesters as racists. That's what Jimmy Carter says, and Time's Joe Klein, and The American Prospect's Paul Waldman, and Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd at the New York Times, among others.
What is their evidence? Well, they don't have any—just over-active imaginations. Krugman opines that the "driving force" behind the tea party movement is "probably…cultural and racial anxiety," while Dowd says that when Joe Wilson told Obama he was lying, "what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!... Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it." Those are the journalistic standards at the Times nowadays: it's OK to libel half the population based on what you imagine they are "probably" thinking and on words they didn't say.
Along the same lines, Klein attributes opposition to Obama to "implicit" racism, while "social psychologist" Thomas Pettigrew makes explicit what this charge of "implicit racism" means: "The general idea is that people who don't recognize it in themselves look for legitimate means to carry out their subtle beliefs, sometimes even without awareness on their part that they're doing it." That's how a "social psychologist" gets to project onto you his own preconceptions about your character and motives—without actually needing to talk to you and ask you what you think.
And they have not asked us what we think, none of them. It is obvious from all of the accusations of racism that these crack reporters haven't attended the "tea party" protests, haven't talked to anyone there, haven't bothered to find out who we are and what we believe. They have simply projected onto us the ugliest motive they can think of, without the need for any evidence to validate it. It is one of the most gratuitous political smear campaigns I have ever seen.
For a dose of reality, check out this set of photos taken by one of my readers at Saturday's rally. The defining characteristic of the tea party rallies, and especially last Saturday's, is the profusion of signs—the movement's dominant medium of expression. You don't have to resort to imagining words these people didn't say or projecting what was "probably" in their minds. They tell you what they're thinking, with an enormous variety and creativity of homemade signs. A few favorites: "Do I Look Like an ATM to You?" The ever-popular "Give Me Liberty, Not Debt." "Congress Is a Toxic Asset." "Free Markets Not Free Loaders." And addressing the race issue head-on: "It Doesn't Matter the President Is Black. It Matters That He's Red." The most unusual sign: a genuine one-million-Mark banknote from the German hyperinflation of the 1920s, surrounded by the motto: "Never Again."
(If you scroll down about halfway, you will also see a picture of yours truly. I'm the fellow in the blue shirt carrying a big sign with a quote from Ayn Rand expressing this "racist" sentiment: "Your life belongs to you and the good is to live it." Clearly code words for the Ku Klux Klan.)
The common theme of the signs was individual rights versus collectivism, an advocacy of limited government held to the restrictions placed on it by the Constitution. One of the signs in the photo essay sums up the message of the tea party rally: "It's the Liberty, Stupid."
The fact that the tea party had such a clear philosophical message, and that the bogus racism smear so thoroughly evades this message, says a lot about the intellectual confidence of the tea party movement—versus the lack of philosophical confidence on the left. The tea partiers are very happy to have a philosophical debate on the most basic political issues. The left, by contrast, wants to change the subject with personal, ad hominem attacks—which indicates that they are not confident that they can win the debate if it stays on the question of the size and role of government.
To say that the left is resorting to "racial politics" is a bit too vague. Let's define exactly what they are doing: they are resorting to a decades-old politics of racial slander, reflexively accusing any opponent of racism in an attempt to shut down discussion.
Racism is one of the worst insults you can throw at someone today, only a few steps up from accusing him of being a child molester. That this is so is, in fact, a tribute to the heroic change in American culture in recent decades. In less than fifty years, America has gone from a country in which segregation was openly enforced and defended to a country in which an accusation of even indirect racism can ruin a man's reputation and career. Just ask Don Imus. But this has come to be used as a weapon—a bludgeon of intimidation wielded by the left.
Barack Obama's color-blind campaign, the idea that he was running as if race didn't matter, promised us an uplifting break from this history. There were indications from the beginning, however, that he didn't really mean it. Obama had to tap dance around his close, longstanding association with the race-baiting preacher Jeremiah Wright, and he sat back while his proxies used accusations of racism as a weapon against the Clinton campaign.
If he could do that in the Democratic primary, there's no reason to think he'll object to those who are doing it again now. Obama allegedly wants to stay out of the current racism smear campaign—but leaders don't get that option. By remaining silent, he is signaling his approval; he is voting "present" on the revival of the racism smear in American politics. This is an enormous disappointment to many people who once voted for Obama—and to many others, like myself, who once saw an element of nobility in his campaign, even if we disagreed with everything else he stood for.
If Obama doesn't immediately and forcefully reject the new racism smear against the tea party movement, then he will have destroyed the last remaining element of his appeal to voters—and he will have made millions of passionate new enemies among the voting public.
Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at TIADaily.com. He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily.com.